Science and the Bible: Modern Insights for an Ancient Text
Instone-Brewer (David)
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Back Cover Blurb

  1. Is the Bible fundamentally at odds with science?
  2. Science and the Bible are often pitted against each other, causing many to either defend science at Scripture's expense, or vice versa. Instead, what if we saw them as friends? Can Christians appreciate scientific insights like they do archaeological discoveries--as a source of knowledge to illuminate the biblical world and our own?
  3. In Science and the Bible, David Instone-Brewer takes a refreshing and non-antagonistic approach, asking how science can aid our interpretation of the Bible. The result is stimulating on topics such as God's omnipresence, the origin of languages, the nature of eternity, the relationship of spirit and soul, the reality of resurrection, and Jesus' human experience.
  4. In short, readable chapters, Science and the Bible enables the curious layperson to reread the Bible with fresh perspectives from modern scientific insights.
  5. The Scripture in Context series is driven by the conviction that there is nothing as exciting, direct, provocative, and spiritually enlightening as the Bible when we read it as it was meant to be read. Each book in the series dives into the ancient cultural context behind Bible passages, examining the effect this context had on what the Bible writers were saying and how we should understand their words today. When we read the Bible in light of its context, it is anything but boring. Instead, God's word can speak to us as powerfully as it did to those who first read it.
  6. The Rev. Dr. David Instone-Brewer is a research fellow at Tyndale House, a research library in biblical studies located in Cambridge, England. He previously served as a Baptist minister. His books include
    Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible,
    Divorce and Remarriage in the Church, and
    Traditions of the Rabbis from the Era of the New Testament.

Amazon Customer Review
  1. One of the worst science-faith books I’ve ever read
    → Addison Wier, Reviewed in the United States on 26 February 2023
  2. As a Christian who affirms evolution, I believe there are helpful, viable ways of reconciling the Bible with modern science (including evolution).
  3. However, the approach this author takes isn’t one of them.
  4. A number of times, he proposes a particular reading of Scripture without giving any biblical reason for thinking that it’s correct, or even plausible. He rarely tries to interpret Scripture in its ancient context, and instead allows his readings to be dictated by modern science. This is a real shame, since his other two books in this series don’t have that problem (and are actually quite good).
  5. Here are a few books that I believe are much better alternatives:

Notes
  1. I’ve quoted the above ‘challenging’ review before I’ve read the book. It focuses exclusively on the ‘Evolution’ controversy.
  2. The books cited all look interesting. I had the last one on order for when it came out in paperback (December 2023).
  3. I intend to comment in due course on the specific Chapters based on the Contents below and will determine whether the reviewer’s strictures are deserved. Most ratings, and the other review, are positive.

Contents

    Introduction – 1
  1. Section 1: The Universe
    1. God Works by Miracles, Not Magic – 11
      In the Bible, God’s miracles aren’t like magic tricks — he doesn’t suddenly produce things out of thin air or make something disappear in a puff of smoke, though presumably he could. The way that he does work tells us a lot about what he is like.
    2. God Does Work in the Gaps – 19
      We tend to ascribe to God only the things we don’t yet understand, such as how life began — that is, the gaps in our knowledge. But there’s a different kind of gap that would allow him to do anything he wished without breaking any of the observable laws of physics.
    3. What Are the Stars For? – 29
      The stars aren’t gods (as pagans thought in Bible times), or holes in the dome of heaven (as the medieval church thought). We know they are suns, and we now know why God created so many.
    4. Multiverses Prove God’s Existence – 37
      Our finely tuned universe provides a valid proof for God's existence — unless there are infinite multiverses that contain everything that can possibly exist. However, these multiverses also provide a proof for God — so either way, a creator exists.
    5. Mathematics of Infinity and Eternity – 45
      Infinity is an important concept in mathematics. Strangely, unlike most other branches of mathematics, it doesn’t represent anything in the natural world — unless it tells us about God himself.
    6. Where Does God Live? – 53
      String theory describes an eleventh dimension termed M, which is equally close to every physical point. This can help us understand God’s omniscience and omnipresence.
  2. Section 2: The Earth
    1. The Problem with Galileo – 63
      The church rejected Galileo because he contradicted the Bible — though actually he only rejected its interpretation of the Bible. How can we tell when the Bible is speaking metaphorically and when it is trying to teach us scientific facts?
    2. Six Snapshots of Creation – 73
      If you were God, how would you describe geological history to the author of Genesis? One way is to present it as six days in the life of the Earth. When we examine the text, this interpretation actually fits more literally than one-week creation.
    3. Everyone Believes in Evolution – 85
      Young-earth interpretations say that the thousands of species rescued by Noah became the millions we see now. They say that species changed much faster at that time, while others say they always change slowly. Can we conclude which theory is wrong?
    4. How Long Did Creation Take? – 93
      Does it matter whether God took billions of years or one week? Do fossils and genetic family trees point to real history or an apparent history that God hid for us to find? The answer affects how we think about God.
    5. How Big Was the Flood? – 105
      Did the waters cover all the “mountains” of the “earth” or all the "hills” of the "land"?
      Interpreting the text very literally resolves these ambiguities and produces a surprising conclusion.
    6. Babel Rediscovered – 119
      Were languages "created” or “confused" at Babel? The actual tower was rediscovered a few decades ago, thanks to a deciphered Babylonian tablet. Its Sumerian name suggests why it was so dangerous.
    7. Joshua’s Long Day – 129
      The lengthened day was accompanied by another miracle: hailstones that killed the enemy. Meteorologists know a phenomenon that links these two events and helps us to understand how one miracle gave rise to both of these wonders.
    8. Ecology and the New Earth – 139
      geologists warn us to look after the world, but the Bible says there will be a “new Earth," so why bother? Details in the Bible text suggest that the Earth will be renewed, not replaced.
  3. Section 3: Adam and Eve
    1. Made from Dust, like Adam – 149
      The Bible tells us we are made of dust, and science tells us this dust was made in stars. Did God make Adam from dust in an afternoon or over billions of years? Science has a lot to say about this, but the best clue is in the Bible text.
    2. Animals Have Souls in the Bible – 157
      Some animals can use tools, show emotions, and communicate with words, so are humans merely clever animals? The Bible and psychologists use different language but agree on this distinction: humans are spiritual, while animals have only souls.
    3. What Does the Human Spirit Do? – 169
      What is the difference between the human spirit and soul? Neurologists and philosophers ask a similar question about the mind and brain.
    4. Adam’s Apple in Literal Language – 179
      When the account of Eden’s ribs, snakes, and trees is expressed in modern concepts, it agrees surprisingly well with the literal text. Gerontologists would love to know what grew on the tree of life.
    5. When and Where Did Adam Live? – 189
      Paleoanthropologists trace humans back three million years, so where does Adam fit in? Details in the text of Genesis reveal some intriguing possibilities that correspond with what archaeologists and geneticists have discovered.
    6. Where Did Cain’s Wife Come From? – 201
      If Cain married someone living outside Eden, this would explain some strange details in Genesis. It would also explain how our gene pool contains so much variation.
  4. Section 4: Humanity
    1. What Is Male and Female? – 215
      A surprising proportion of babies are born physically intersex — that is, not identifiably male or female. The Bible only condemns those who live contrary to their nature, which implies that God accepts us as we are — however we are born.
    2. Where Does Altruism Come From? – 225
      Acts of kindness and self-sacrificial heroism occur in all populations. Are they signs of divine action in someone’s life, or are they simply normal traits that we should expect to find in humans?
    3. Can God Become a Real Human? – 235
      Jesus was fully man, with a limited human mind, so how could he know everything that God knows? One solution lies in analogies with computers and especially within some popular computer games.
    4. The World Is Improving—Statistically – 241
      Statisticians say the world is getting better in most ways, but doesn’t the Bible predict the opposite? Jesus said that when disasters happen, the end is “not yet,” and Paul expected Jesus’ return when everyone says “Peace, peace.”
    5. Human Resurrection by Backup? – 251
      Computer science presents us with a vocabulary for understanding resurrection: our DNA and body can be reconstructed like hardware, and our memory can be backed up like software. Of course, the backup drive would be huge.
  5. Section 5: Miracles
    1. Miracles That Employ Nature – 263
      God doesn’t materialize things like a fictional wizard might. He tends to enhance or speed up nature when working miracles, as if he likes using the natural world that he has created.
    2. Sodom’s Natural Disaster – 269
      Seismologists can’t make accurate predictions yet, though God predicted Sodom’s destruction. This is described like a natural process because it couldn’t be delayed when Lot dawdled.
    3. Explaining the Exodus Miracles – 277
      Attempts to explain these miracles don’t work very well, but we aren’t wrong to try — the Bible itself explains how the Jordan dried up (in a way that was understandable at the time). The most spectacular element in these miracles is their exact timing.
    4. Food in the Wilderness – 289
      The Israelites lived in the wilderness for forty years. This clearly involved miracles, but these did not include providing all their food and water — because other nations were managing to live there too.
    5. Predicting the Future by the Stars – 299
      Astronomers can predict heavenly signs foretold by the Bible, such as blood moons, and the wise men predicted Christ’s birth. Can we predict the future using the Bible or the stars?
    6. Can a Virgin Birth Produce a Real Man? – 309
      Spontaneous virgin birth is scientifically very unlikely — although not impossible. Theologically it is more problematic: How can Jesus be a natural man if he is born by unnatural means? One proposal helps to solve both sets of difficulties.
    7. Conclusions: Surprise, Disappointment, and Hope – 319
      I’ve been excited, surprised, and depressed by the findings in this book. But ultimately, I'm hopeful. We have found that biblical studies and the sciences really can help each other. After all, they both explore a revelation from God.
    Index – 327

Book Comment

Lexham Press (23 Sept. 2020)



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